The 2014-2015 school year has just let out for summer vacation, and my first year as a member of Waynflete’s Girls’ Leadership Training (GLTr) has come to an end. While I plan to milk all the lazy summer days for what they’re worth and ignore how rapidly my senior year is approaching, all those year-end course evaluations got me thinking about what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed in the past year. I’ve always been in favor of the rights and equality of women, but I know that, just one year ago, I wasn’t nearly as comfortable in my feminism and in my own leaderships potential as I am now; I’ve got GLTr to thank for that.
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t always a feminist. In fact, when I started attending Waynflete, I was actively opposed to the movement. As much as it pains me in retrospect, I fell prey to the stereotype that feminism was all about man-hating and bra-burning. Thankfully, during sophomore year I was delighted to discover millennial-friendly social media-based feminism, and with this discovery my perspective of basically everything changed. On the bright side, I learned to embrace my secret love of all things “girly” (read: pink and glittery), but the barrage of negativity that my feminism wrought overwhelmed me. On the streets there was harassment, and in English class there was the gruesomely misogynistic The Taming of The Shrew. I wasn’t sure I was “doing” feminism right, or even if I should pursue it, so when I heard about GLTr, I figured I’d take a risk and see what other girls in the Upper School had to say. I couldn’t have anticipated all that would come from my involvement in the group.
Did I mention that this is only GLTr’s second year as a Waynflete activity? It’s kind of mindboggling that Waynflete has only had a girls’ group for two years, and even though GLTr still might not have as much presence in the community as, let’s say, the athletic department, GLTr has already accomplished so much in such a short period of time.
In the first few months of my GLTr membership, I’d already read Sheryl Sandberg’s novel Lean In and helped host a fundraiser screening of CIEE’s documentary on the rights of young women internationally, Girl Rising; both works resonated with me deeply, and to have a half-hour every Friday to sound off with the other girls (plus Lydia Maier and Lindsay Kaplan!) helped me become more and more assured and confident in my feminism, and in myself.
Shortly after wrapping our annual mentorship program with groups of seventh-grade girls, we hosted the last GLTr event of the school year, a generation-spanning panel made up of Waynflete alumni Anne Zill (’59), Kristen Graffam King (’89), and Desiree Lester (’04). The panel was nothing short of enlightening; though each woman’s perspective of feminism might have varied, they were all geared towards the same goal: equality for all women, and the right to do as they please as ambitious women in often male-dominated or unequal workplaces.
As inspired as I may be to pursue opportunities to gain leadership as an ambitious young woman of Waynflete – school’s out, summer’s here, and I’m ready to relax. But I know that, when I’m a senior and GLTr kicks up again, I’ll be ready for another year of exploring what it means to be a woman at Waynflete.